[Viewpoint] Our desensitized societyIt’s no longer a surprise to come across one or two mind-boggling stories in the morning papers these days. One should be getting used to dramatic episodes in a rapidly changing urban society like Korea. But news of criminal violence have become too grotesque and brutal to accept them merely as fallout from social evolution. A woman who pleaded for her life over the emergency call she made to the police was discovered dismembered the next day in Suwon. Another bizarre story arrives before we can recover from the last one.
An entertainment management agency CEO habitually raped teenagers who came to his office with dreams of one day becoming stars. He invited boy idol group members to join in on the assault. Teenagers killed one of their peers and buried her. In Yeongju in North Gyeongsang, another teen killed himself after being bullied in middle school. The court freed a sexual offender who later brutally killed the victim in revenge. From the episodes, this country appears to be in a state of anarchy. There is no other explanation for this kind of rampant brutality and lenient counteraction against violence. Worse, society is becoming desensitized to forms of cruelty and depravity.
The entertainment industry is in hot water after the scandalous spotlight on the agency CEO’s hideous acts. Three years ago, it received similar criticism after actress Jang Ja-yeon committed suicide upon leaving a note disclosing her plight of being forced to have sex with media executives and business bigwigs. The industry then vowed to clean up its act and shake the scandalous image. But the industry’s abuse and exploitation of the underage obviously did not stop. Furthermore, there seems to be more concern over a tainted image that could damage the overseas popularity of Korean entertainers from the scandal than the damage to the victims and potential danger to the youth in similar conditions. The sensational side of the story is gaining spotlight due to interest over who among the idol stars could have been involved and the identity of the victims. Few are raising questions and anger over the lack of protection against teenagers who are so exposed to exploitation and predators.
School violence has been a major issue since late last year. The entire country was enraged by the spread and extent of student violence. But so far we have seen few changes from authorities as well as on school grounds. The classroom of the middle-school student who committed suicide had two homeroom teachers. But they were oblivious to the bullying that had gone on in the classroom.
The Education Ministry recently released a survey on the situation of school violence, which turned out to be loosely conducted and ended up defaming the schools that faithfully answered the survey. The data lacked statistical evidence, but it nevertheless contained the reality of students struggling with everyday violence at schools. A school’s image should not be more important than the record of violence. What is important is that violence exists in the school. Even if it has only one case, the school must address it immediately so that similar incidents do not occur.
The court-authorized release of sexual offenders is dumbfounding. A criminal offender often has little regret over his or her act. They are usually angry when caught and bear grudge against the victim. To prevent further crime, the offender must be kept restrained from the victim, especially if the offender has been accused of sexual assault. It’s incredulous that even the court does not seem to know how to deal with violent crimes.
Our society’s ignorance, indifference and desensitization of violence have gone too far. Instead of being outraged by violence, people are more interested in the outlandish story and details behind it. Fans of an outspoken and foul-mouthed podcast host who ran for the legislative election assembled and cheered for him in downtown Seoul as if he were a heroic figure, even as he uttered sexually offensives remarks against the former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Violence is not selective of victims. Anyone can become a victim or predator. We must maintain zero tolerance on violence. Individual retaliation should be contained. But authorities must be tough on law enforcement. Any verbal and behavioral violence should not be tolerated or forgiven. Rampant violence can only be contained with tough disciplinary action.
* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Yang Sun-hee